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Yoshinobu Yamamoto scores $325 million deal with Dodgers, but there are risks to signing Japanese ace

Yoshinobu Yamamoto scores $325 million deal with Dodgers, but there are risks to signing Japanese ace

Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, CBS Sports’ No. 2 free agent this winter, is going to be a Dodger. The NPB ace is set to ink a 12-year, $325 million deal and join Shohei Ohtani in Los Angeles, where the NL West darlings have powered up and then some this offseason. Even before that, Major League Baseball’s high rollers were desperately trying to win the sweepstakes, as the New York Mets and New York Yankees joined the Dodgers as the frontrunners since he was posted.

Last week, we laid out why teams are enamored with Yamamoto, to the extent that several league sources have relayed expectations that bidding would exceed the $300 million mark, which will shatter the previous record for an incoming overseas pitcher ($325 million does, in fact, do so). That distinction previously belongs to Masahiro Tanaka and the $155 million pact he inked with the New York Yankees in January 2014.

The short version of that piece goes like this: Yamamoto is an impossibly accomplished 25-year-old who has achieved rare feats in Nippon Professional Baseball history. (He won the league’s MVP and Cy Young equivalents in each of the last three seasons.) Yamamoto also checks almost all of the boxes that MLB talent evaluators look for in frontline starters. As it stands, he has great command over a good arsenal, including a mid-90s fastball, a swing-and-miss splitter and a picturesque curveball. Factor in the rich history of Japanese pitchers transferring to MLB and succeeding, and you have a compelling argument for spending as much as it takes to land him this offseason. 

Today, we’re going with a different approach. You may be familiar with the “red team” concept in business circles. (Well-adjusted people are more likely to refer to it as “playing devil’s advocate.”) In layman’s terms, it’s a way of stress-testing thoughts and proposals. If, after poking as many holes in an idea as you can muster, you still think it’s worth pursuing … well, then you can probably proceed since the idea must be a sound one to endure such analysis. 

Below, CBS Sports has identified three risk factors with Yamamoto that may have caused teams pause — as well as brief counterarguments to those points. Bear in mind that this is only a thought experiment. 

Now, let’s get to it:

Risk factor No. 1: He’s never pitched in MLB

There are some important differences between NPB and MLB. Most notably, they use different…

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